SINGAPORE - Former tour guide Yang Yin was sentenced to six years' jail on Friday (Sept 30) for misappropriating $1.1 million entrusted to him by a wealthy Singaporean widow.
Yang, 42, from China, befriended Madam Chung Khin Chun when he was her tour guide and moved to Singapore to live at her Gerald Crescent bungalow off Yio Chu Kang Road in 2009. He had pleaded guilty in August to two charges of misappropriating $500,000 in 2010 and $600,000 in 2012 from her. The 89-year-old was diagnosed with dementia in April 2014.
Yang was given 32 months for the first charge and 40 months for the second charge.
The prosecution had asked for a jail term of 10 to 12 years as a deterrent sentence in order to send a message that any misuse of funds entrusted by vulnerable persons will be severely dealt with.
At the start of Friday's hearing, Principal District Judge Bala Reddy said the sentence meted out must be one that reflects the total amount of money misappropriated, as well as one that takes into account various aggravating factors of the case.
The 10 to 12 years' jail term that the prosecution asked for would be "particularly crushing", said the judge, citing past cases where the jail terms handed out were lower than that even though larger amounts were misappropriated.
The prosecution has two weeks to appeal the verdict.
On Thursday (Sept 29), Yang was sentenced to 26 months' jail for a slew of offences, mostly related to falsifying payment receipts to his bogus company Young Music and Dance Studio in his bid to dupe the authorities into granting him permanent resident status. The 26 months' jail term was backdated to include his time in remand. Yang has been in remand since October 2014.
The two sentences will run consecutively.
Speaking to reporters after the sentencing, Madam Chung's niece, Hedy Mok, said she was "totally disappointed". She plans to appeal the verdict but said she would check with her lawyer first.
"What he stole was not only money... he actually took away the dignity," she said. "He didn't do what he was supposed to do, (that is) look after her. He didn't do that... he didn't look into her welfare and it's totally disappointing."
She added: "The message out to the public now is to really look after the old, vulnerable and lonely."
Yang's lawyer Irving Choh said his client was "relieved" after the sentencing.
"Although the sentence is longer than what we asked for... I am pleased. But I will be visiting my client to see whether he will want to appeal."
He added: "Prior to the sentencing, he was nervous. But after the sentencing, he was relieved."
His lawyer had asked for a jail term not exceeding three years.
Yang had said that Madam Chung looked upon him as her 'grandson' and that he had moved into her home to look after her. Madam Chung's husband died in 2007 and the couple have no children.
But the prosecution has argued that he moved to Singapore to take advantage of her and had schemed to get his hands on her money.
In January 2010, he persuaded Madam Chung to give him $500,000 to buy her a horse painting by renowned Chinese artist Xu Beihong. The painting was later said by an art expert to be a $200 fake.
He also tried to conceal his misappropriation of $600,000 by lying to the police that he had used the money to buy five paintings for her. The five paintings were evaluated by an expert to be worth $2,000 to $3,000 in total. Until today, the two sums of money remain unaccounted for.
From the time Yang moved into Madam Chung's bungalow in 2009 to his arrest in 2014, her cash savings went from $2.7 million to $10,000.